• First Film Competition  
  • Renaud Victor Award


Julien Chauzit

In his first film, Julien Chauzit gathers four young adults in their twenties who are on holiday in Martigues, and he shows their political awakening, in the face of the environmental disaster to come. So, the heart of the film is an adventure about youth – Bourdieu would say that youth is nothing but a  word – but what these young people have to say about themselves contrasts with the usual  representations of their supposed carelessness. The frivolity of summer flings and the song of the cicadas under the bright sun quickly give way to an angst that disrupts the display of indifference. Instead of the inevitable cliché of the glorious sunset they were expecting, the group is appalled to discover, somewhere between a nightmare and science-fiction, industrial chimneys setting the horizon on fire. This story of a (meteoric) ecological and political awareness, with a great deal of humour and feigned naivety, is also an introduction to a territory. Just like his characters, Julien Chauzit dares to take side steps, and brilliantly inserts witty comments in a documentary fashion, as he gives the locals a chance to express their concerns about the deterioration of their environment. Julien Chauzit films his actors in a direct and tender way, with no fuss, with their own accent, words and spontaneousness, all of which express the way they inhabit this area in the south of France that is so popular because of the sun and blue sky, but also express how they worry about it. The Hill is above all the result of an astounding energy at work, an experience lived to the full, involving a bunch of people working together in front and behind the camera. The portrait of a so-called “climate” generation of young people who actually read collapsologists like Pablo Servigne, who search for new ways to organise, and who applaud Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Hill speaks humbly and from the heart about how urgent it is to speak up and take action. While day-today reports on the destruction of life could leave us paralysed and powerless, Julien Chauzit turns the old saying “If youth but knew, if age but could” upside down. His characters choose words and pick up the microphone. Julien Chauzit has clearly chosen cinema, and we are so very glad he did.

(Claire Lasolle)

Interview with Julien Chauzit

The title of your film is like that of a horror or genre film. Certain parts, certain shots are connected to nightmares and science fiction films. Can you tell us about the writing of the script and your intentions as director?

The Hill was inspired by the terrifying spate, in the summer of 2018, of articles about collapse and climate change. In privileged parts of the world, it is precisely through nightmares that disaster occurs: it is there, invisible, we sense its imminence, and yet life carries on almost as before. So, I tried to instil the film with a nightmarish feeling that expresses our anxiety as we witness the world, as we know it, becoming hostile. The Hill is an improvised film. I didn’t want the narrative to be too conventional. I wanted to create a holiday film focusing on atmosphere rather than plot. A film which, like a holiday, carries on without really any real sense of direction, dependent on moods, meetings and the weather. The idea was to write about real life. To do so, I set out from a particular region, I identified the places that inspired me with regard to the subject matter of the film, and I met people there whom I asked to participate in the adventure. At the shooting, only one sequence mentioned these places and people, and a few narrative elements. The aim was to document the life of a group put to the test of a region and different encounters, and the subsequent inner movement. Given the abundance of material, the editing required a considerable amount of scripting.

This is your first film. You worked with a large team. Can you tell us about the production conditions?

In traditional circuits, it is almost impossible to produce a film without a script. The Hill is supported by the association Les Autres Films, which raised money for expenses and occasionally allowed us to provide meagre pay for the people who worked on the film. Although our model was fragile, it gave us great flexibility and the freedom to start filming quickly.

Your characters are portrayed by young or non-professional actors. How did you work together? How much of the dialogue was improvised?
Although almost every sequence was based on an outline, the dialogue was totally improvised: the actors and actresses experienced the situations and encounters without any prior knowledge of what was about to happen, they only found out at the very last moment. The filming captured their life unfolding according to the group’s own rationale and its transient moods.

You propose a portrait of a generation, its emotions, its aspirations and its concerns. How did you build your characters? What were your sources of inspiration?
The characters were forged from the personalities of the actors who kept their own first names. Like in the film, most of them already knew each other. However, the fact that the actors were similar to their characters does not mean that they are one and the same: the story in which the characters are involved is not that of the actors, and they had to interiorise and magnify the questions raised by the film through the various encounters, landscapes, discussions and readings. Their desires and emotions thus merged with the concerns of their generation. This capturing of the springing forth of life through the prism of one’s interpretation of the world, was inspired by Du côté d’Orouët, by Jacques Rozier, and from Guillaume Brac’s films.

You work around and with a local culture, the tropisms of a region and its landscapes. What is your relationship to this region?
I was born in Martigues and lived there until I was 18. Like many of the local inhabitants, the factories were just part of the landscape, to such an extent that when I started looking for an area affected by an ecocidal project to make my film, Martigues did not immediately spring to mind at all. It was while preparing and shooting The Hill that I took a fresh look at the area, and realised how contradictory it was. Just like Mélisande’s character, I only truly saw the factories for the first time when I returned home.

Some sequences mobilise more documentary resources and leave room for the testimonies of the area’s inhabitants. How did you manage to work these sequences into the fiction? How did you manage the dramatization?
I imagined the group of characters as a fictional vessel from which to explore the real world. Their role was sometimes to become supporting characters, to stand back and receive a message, so that the spectator would do the same, by mimicry. The bond that developed between the actors-characters and the inhabitants gave the latter the confidence and spontaneity that make them forget about the cameras and microphones. In these sequences, the principle of the staging is that of listening, a real political necessity.

You stage the ecological awareness of four young adults and their journey of political awakening. Is your film a way of addressing the people of your generation? How did you work on the message conveyed in the rap song?
In a way, yes. At the beginning, I imagined that I was making an appeal, to a generation, to reclaim a world of which we have been dispossessed. Quite quickly, I felt that the film was struggling with the clarity of a “message”, so I stripped it out. All that remains is the appeal made by Ilan and Mélisande in the rap song, in which they echo the protest voiced by the female politician in the video. I believe that if the film does still contain an appeal, it now takes the form of a question: how can we stand as one to face the fate that befalls us?

Interview by Claire Lasolle.

  • First Film Competition  
  • Renaud Victor Award

Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 75’

Original Version : French.
Subtitles : English, French.
Photography : Camille Sisman, Julien Ticot, Cyril Pedrazzini.
Editing : Mathilde de Brancion, Julien Chauzit.
Music : Martin Mahieu.
Sound : Cécilie Guin, Adèle Le Goff, Chiara Nardo, Nathan Alhachimi, Quentin Lachery, Saoussen Tatah, Clément Ghirardi.
Casting : Solène Salvat, Mélisande Dorvault, Ilan Couartou, Matteo Gaya.
Production : Les autres films.